Manchester United v SAFC: ‘not arrogant, just better’

Whenever Sunderland play Manchester United, Salut! Sunderland expects to hear from a Scotsman in Italy. David Schiavone, a United-supporting writer who runs the MUFC podcast site to which we are asked to give pre-match interviews (hear the latest one 30 mintes into this podcast), also has a passion for Serie A. But United are his first love – he cheerfully accepts the “glory seeker” tag – and we thought it was time he answered our questions too. The phrase in the headline leapt effortlessly from his responses …

See also: who would have to top up with cash in a Welbeck/Henderson swap?

Salut! Sunderland: What do you make of the speculation that Qatar may bid for United, making future Manchester derbies as much Gulf as Premier encounters?

I think most people would be glad to see the back of the Glazers and if the Qatar royal family want to bid for United and write off the debt then plough some money into the club then by all means. But if they are too come into the club then they must respect the traditions and for me the manager. He built the club and it is because of him United are where they are today.

Top of the Premier, doing OK in the Champions League but it doesn’t somehow seem a vintage United year. Fair point or nonsense?

I would say that is a fair point as United have only really played to their full potential in one match. That match being 7-1 against Blackburn. I would say we have become more efficient and less ‘United like’ this year. Not really dominating teams as we used to but still coming away with the necessary result.

Whatever your reply to that, have Premier standards – especially at the very top – declined generally or is it good to see teams like Sunderland, Bolton and others pushing for places in Europe?

I would say so yes, as United haven’t strengthened much while Chelsea don’t have the depth they once had and Arsenal have the same problems they have always done. While teams such as Sunderland have invested heavily and no don’t go to places like Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford etc and play for a draw. It is refreshing so I think the top teams have declined a little and the mid-table side have improved slightly thus giving a more even league.

What were your minimum and maximum expectations at the start of this season?

I would say winning the Premier League. Sir Alex wants that 19th title for United and I think that takes precedence over Europe for this season.

United fans have to take a lot of banter, not all of it good-natured, about their supposed arrogance, their alleged detachment from the city in which they play and the transition from club to brand. Elements of truth or the pathetic bleatings of envious rivals?

There is a famous saying around Old Trafford… Not arrogant just better. Which is true, we have been for a number of years but I think sentiments from opposition fans are bred by the success of the club. For example Liverpool had the same thing in the 80s when they were successful. I would agree with the club turning into a brand and is essentially a business now, but that is part and parcel of football nowadays.

What do you make of Sunderland’s emergence as a home from home for United players and staff who are either unwanted at Old Trafford or need experience elsewhere?

Every team needs a feeder club (joke). Why not, if it is beneficial for both sides you can give some of our youngsters much needed first team experience and you can improve your squad for a limited time thus allowing you to attract players of higher quality players.

If it came to SAF wanting Henderson and Bruce making Welbeck a must-have component of the deal, would you regard that as acceptable – and which club would need to top up with cash?

Thinking about United’s needs I would say we have plenty of strikers and not enough midfielders, and a deal may also depend on who needs the particular player most. In this case I would say United as Sunderland already have to very good forward players. But having only seen Henderson on a few occasions and given the form of Welbeck for you… either a straight swap or Henderson + cash for Welbeck.

You interviewed Craig Gordon on the same evening you talked to me: did he have anything really significant to say about THAT save, on Sunderland and where his long-term future may lie?

???? I have no idea ??? (Salut! Sunderland is still trying to decipher this reply – ed)

What have been your own highs and lows as a United supporter?

High is 1999 Champions League Final. I can vividly remember exactly what I was doing at the time plus the pure disbelief and joy at the winner. Even watching it now makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was a magical evening. Low… there haven’t been many but I really remember the evening we were eliminated by Real Madrid in the Champions League and Ronaldo was given a standing ovation for his performance. While this was a defeat to a much better side, that played fantastic on the night. It was crushing for me, I don’t know why. It’s just something that really stuck in my memory.

How would you feel about a future cup game, improbable as it may be, involving United and FC United of Manchester?

Personally, I don’t mind they are different clubs. The roots may be tied and the intentions honourable of FC United, but I don’t have any issues with the fixture.

Name the players you rely on most, those you need at Old Trafford and the ones that simply have to be shipped out.

Rio and Vidic, When they are playing we rarely concede. They are fantastic, they complement each other immensely and are one of the best partnerships ever to have played at Old Trafford, if not he best. I would have said Wayne Rooney but after his prolonged absence this year I don’t think we rely on him as much as we did last season.

I think a number of the squad players need to leave and a couple of the forwards, such as Darron Gibson and Mame Diouf. Bu overall I feel we need a couple of midfield additions


How do today’s stars compare with Best, Law, Charlton etc?

Personally I don’t like to compare generations too much as the game has changed completely but you have to say Best, Law and Charlton were among the leading players of their day and today’s stars at United may not be among the leading lights in the modern game. You could argue only Rooney is anywhere near the level of the leading lights in football such as Messi, though I would disagree. Probably only Vidic or Evra are among the best in their respective positions in the world game at the moment.

Did England’s failure to win the Fifa vote to stage the 2018 World Cup bother you?

Not at all, in fact I think Russia’s bid deserved to win. People have complained about England not hosting a World Cup for over 50 years (in 2018) by Russia have NEVER hosted it so why not take it there? Free ground travel for ticket holders, and relaxed visa entry laws… all sounds good to me.

Is it time to abandon high-minded objections to cheating – diving, feigning injury and haranguing refs to get opponents booked or sent off – and accept it as part of the modern game? If not, how can it be stamped out?

Personally I feel it is part of the modern game. Players will do anything to win and diving, feigning injury are all part of that, just as giving away a foul is. I think you have to remember that these offences are all dealt with in the ‘Laws of the Game’ – see FIFA website – so if a referee feels any have been contravened then there are suitable punishments. I would say the opinion that the game must be played fairly is very much an British issue. Having Italian roots you see cases of diving and attempts to con the referee every week, it is seen as cunning if you can get away with it. So why not use all the rules to your advantage? I can’t imagine anyone complaining if Darren Bent dived for a penalty in the last minute of a Champions League Final/F.A. Cup Final/Premier League Title decider?

Will you be at our match? What will be the score?

Unfortunately not as I reside in Italy, as I have a passion for Serie A. Though I will be watching and I think we will get a 2 goal victory… 3-1 to United.

David Schiavone on David Schiavone: and I am a freelance football writer for a number of websites and present a couple of podcasts, one on Manchester United at and another on Italian Football which can be found on I have supported United for as long as I can remember, I was influenced by one of my friends who had a United shirt and said he supported them, so I decided I would too… simple as that. People have always come up with the “Glory Hunter” line which is fair enough, that is their opinion, but growing up and reading the history, Sir Matt Busby, the 60s, 70s and 80s plus the style of football is something I have become proud of and I could never imagine supporting another side.

5 thoughts on “Manchester United v SAFC: ‘not arrogant, just better’”

  1. Periodically there is some debate about whether there should be an NFL team in Toronto or Hamilton for example. The question is should they get a franchise as if it was another outlet for Burger King.

    Major sports in North America don’t support the growth of a club. There is no pyramid structure per se for going from the equivalent of the Blue Square to the PL. A ‘club’ can be just conjured up out of nothing. That’s the fundamental difference that Bill is talking about. It’s the sporting equivalent of Milton Keynes, which is ironic given that that awful town is now the home for what was once Wimbledon. Ironic not least because the the tremendous growth of AFC Wimbledon who epitomise the culture of football and the need for fans to identify with a club because of its record on the field, whether it be success or failure. The wonderful support that AFC Wimbledon have received from fans of other clubs just serves to illustrate how important it is for fans to identify with their club and its past. That’s what the culture of football is all about. It should also serve as a lesson to those who see fans as little more than an inconvenience which swells the coffers. There’s a lot more to it than that. The tens and hundreds of thousands of people who contribute to fanzines are living testimony to that. Nearly all of the debate has a tie to history, heritage and tradition. Without it we are all lost as there is no meaning, shared experience and nothing to talk about. That is another reason why North American sport is so driven by statistical analysis. This type of objectivity is wonderful in science and engineering, but it’s a poor substitute for subjective appraisal and debate about great games, poor players from thirty years ago and whether the pies at Aldershot were better than those at Mansfield.

    The complex blend of personal and shared experiences and history is what contributes to the culture of football. The Venky Chickens need to pay attention to that even if they have little hope of ever truly understanding it. You have to be born with it and live with it. Anyone who thinks differently is doing nothing but deceiving themselves and others.

  2. “So obscure that he hasn’t even heard of himself…” Brilliant!
    Birflatt Boy is absolutely right in his comparison between the tradition of football and the franchise of North American sports. No one here sees any shame or even irony in a well-established and well-loved baseball team such as the Brooklyn Dodgers being sold and moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast to become the L.A. Dodgers. Thank heaven that our “own” American, Ellis Short, seems to recognize the importance of tradition.

  3. I have no great affection for Manchester Utd either, but if it comes down to a two horse race with them and Chelsea, then it’s Man Utd every time. It’s a good point David makes about traditions and the need for new owners to respect them. It’s an important issue in the modern game in the wake of the Glazers and the Hicks + Gilette thing at Liverpool and not to mention FMA at the because we now have a new breed of owners who not only do not respect tradition because they don’t understand what that means. They also have no appreciation of the culture of the sport and how that translates to supporters etc. The best example are the chicken shack owners at Blackburn who have sacked Allardyce because he wasn’t high profile enough, only to replace him with a bloke who is so obscure that he hasn’t even heard of himself.

    Football is all about tradition and little else. It isn’t about franchises like gridiron or baseball. That’s why Wigan despite their achievements fail to attract decent crowds. It has little to do with the presence of other clubs in their neighbourhood, and more to do with a history and tradition which the likes of Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley etc all have even if their achievements were from decades ago (much like SAFC). The longer it is since the achievement the more there is a tradition.

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